3 C-H-I-S-double-you?-I-C-K

Jim and I stayed in Stanwell for a whole weekend with friends of Dad’s. It was near the airport. We saw the planes coming in to land, really close, but we couldn’t hear them. It was strange. We could hear the planes fly over our house, but they were much further away. It was the windows. They had double glazing, that’s what it was called, double glazing. I’d never seen it before.

We went swimming in a pool that was much newer than the ones in Acton or Brentford or the open air pool in Chiswick. In all of those places you got changed in a cubicle and left your stuff on the wooden seat. In the new swimming pool you got changed in a room with other people, and put your things in a metal basket, and gave the basket to someone else, and he gave you a big rubber band to put on your wrist. The rubber band had a number on it, and that was the number on the metal basket too. I put the band on my wrist, like a bracelet, but I thought it would come off in the water. What would I do then? How would I get my stuff back? I put it round my ankle instead.

The church we went to on Sunday morning was the newest church I’d ever seen. It didn’t really feel like a church. It felt less like a church than the hall at school where we had our assembly.

On the way home, driving back towards London, I was spelling some of the words I knew. I was good at spelling. Mary asked me if I could spell Chiswick. I hadn’t spelt it before, but I thought I could.


“That’s not quite right.”

“Really? C-H-I-S-I-C-K. Chisick.”

“No, you’ve missed out a letter.”

“Missed out a letter?” I thought for a few seconds.


“Between the S and the I.”

“Between the S and the I?” I repeated quietly, and repeated “C-H-I-S”, and paused, and repeated “-I-C-K”.

“Another S?”








I stopped. I started going through the alphabet, missing out the letters I’d already said and Mary said no after every one. I gave up before I got to S again.

“I give up. What is it?”


“Double You? C-H-I-S-double-you?-I-C-K?”


I didn’t know what to say. We weren’t far from home. We were near the Chiswick Flyover.

“You’ll see it in a minute.”

And we did, on a road sign, Chiswick. How had I never seen that before?